Image scoring and cooperation in a cleaner fish mutualism

Bshary, Redouan and Grutter, Alexandra S. (2006) Image scoring and cooperation in a cleaner fish mutualism. Nature, 441 7096: 975-978. doi:10.1038/nature04755

Author Bshary, Redouan
Grutter, Alexandra S.
Title Image scoring and cooperation in a cleaner fish mutualism
Journal name Nature   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0028-0836
Publication date 2006-06-22
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1038/nature04755
Volume 441
Issue 7096
Start page 975
End page 978
Total pages 4
Place of publication London, U.K.
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Language eng
Subject C1
630399 Fish not elsewhere classified
270702 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl. Marine Ichthyology)
060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl. Marine Ichthyology)
Abstract Humans are highly social animals and often help unrelated individuals that may never reciprocate the altruist's favour(1-5). This apparent evolutionary puzzle may be explained by the altruist's gain in social image: image-scoring bystanders, also known as eavesdroppers, notice the altruistic act and therefore are more likely to help the altruist in the future(5-7). Such complex indirect reciprocity based on altruistic acts may evolve only after simple indirect reciprocity has been established, which requires two steps. First, image scoring evolves when bystanders gain personal benefits from information gathered, for example, by finding cooperative partners(8-10). Second, altruistic behaviour in the presence of such bystanders may evolve if altruists benefit from access to the bystanders. Here, we provide experimental evidence for both of the requirements in a cleaning mutualism involving the cleaner fish Labroides dimidiatus. These cleaners may cooperate and remove ectoparasites from clients or they may cheat by feeding on client mucus(11,12). As mucus may be preferred over typical client ectoparasites(13), clients must make cleaners feed against their preference to obtain a cooperative service. We found that eavesdropping clients spent more time next to 'cooperative' than 'unknown cooperative level' cleaners, which shows that clients engage in image-scoring behaviour. Furthermore, trained cleaners learned to feed more cooperatively when in an `image-scoring' than in a 'non-image-scoring' situation.
Keyword Biology
Indirect reciprocity
Q-Index Code C1
Additional Notes Nature: "Received 31 January 2006; Accepted 22 March 2006"

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Created: Wed, 15 Aug 2007, 18:58:51 EST